Celebrating Saint Nicholas - Filled Shoes, Golden Coins, and Secret Gifts for the Poor

I've posted a few pictures over the years but a friend recently asked if I had a Saint Nicholas post and I realized I've never actually done a post just about Saint Nicholas day around here!  How is that?  
Well, here's what we do... 

Growing up we celebrated Saint Nicholas Day every December 6, our empty shoes left in the hallway to be filled sometime during the night by "Saint Nick" and a special Mass said at school where the great saint would make a guest appearance at the end of Mass.  It only felt natural to do similar with my own kiddos from the very beginning (minus the gym teacher donned in a mitre).  So every December 5 we put out our shoes the night before to prepare for Saint Nicholas to come.  

(the baby was too little for shoes so the boys made a box for him :)

I wish we had a fireplace so very much but alas, we have to put them near the faux mantel or the window (one story we have says he threw the sacks of gold through the window).  In the morning the boys find four things:

A Christmas/Saint/Religious Themed Book

(From a few years back!)
Each child gets one new (or new to us) faith or Christmas themed book.  I buy almost everything through Amazon now but once in a while will find something earlier in the year at a garage sale or a Catholic bookstore and save it for St. Nick's.  The suggestions that Amazon gives at the bottom of a listing are really helpful for finding new books.  This is the primary way I've been able to build up our Christmas and saint book collection.  I wrap the book in simple paper tied with raffia and place it behind each shoe.  

A Candy Cane
These dye-free ones are our favorites!  (I never buy the multi pack, though, and just get one or two boxes at our local natural food store.)  The candy cane has rich religious symbolism and is perfect for Saint Nicholas.  The cane represents the shepherding of Christ but can also represent the shepherding of our bishops like Nicholas.  The red symbolizes the blood of Christ but is also a color traditionally associated with Saint Nick.  

Chocolate Coins

I'm making an effort this year to convert our chocolate consumption to fair trade and I was so excited to see that there are fair trade chocolate coins available!  This store has the best price and always has coupon codes to stack on top.  I'm pretty miserly and usually split one bag between two kids ;)

One Real Gold Dollar Coin

Last year we started a new tradition that I absolutely love.  All credit goes to Molly!  In each shoe there is a golden dollar coin.  You can go to the bank and buy them there.  With the coin is a note that instructs them to buy something in secret for the poor, just like Saint Nicholas.  So we take a trip that day to the dollar store or grocery store, the sole purpose being to buy something for someone in need - a pair of gloves, a hat, a few cans of soup, toothpaste, or whatever other thing they choose that they think can help someone.  We have a donation box at our church that goes to a downtown mission each week and whatever they have chosen can be put in the box on our next trip to church.  I just love that this places the focus of the day on modeling ourselves after Saint Nicholas rather than just on the treats!

This year I made a printable note rather than writing one out and I'm sharing it here for anyone who would like.  If you click the image below, you can download it to your computer and print it out.  It's formatted to 8 1/2 x 11 paper but you can decrease the percentage size on your printer if you'd like it smaller.  I plan on rolling it up and tying it with ribbon and placing one in each shoe.  There's also a second option underneath for those who like to pretend that it's really Saint Nicholas bringing the treats. We've never told our kids or pretended one way or the other unless they directly ask.  They don't seem to care as long as there's candy ;)    

We don't do any other treats or toys and are happy keeping it to just this much, especially with Christmas just a few weeks away.  Of course, celebrating the liturgy with the Church is the highest and best way to live the liturgical year so that should always take precedence if possible.  I sometimes will have a special breakfast in the morning like pancakes or coffee cake, though not always.  We do usually have some sort of pasta and red sauce for dinner because of the red and white symbolism (also: easy).   Greek or Turkish food might be more appropriate, though, considering that he was born Greek and presided over what is now Turkey!

So that's how we Saint Nicholas around here.  And now I officially have a post on it.

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  1. Ahhhhhh! Must go to the bank today! That is brilliant. I love it! I'm also jumping on the book bandwagon. I've already got them for this year. Thanks for showing us how you do it. I never celebrated it growing up, so I especially love starting new traditions with my family.

  2. Love the dollar coin idea! Our kids pretty much get the same stuff with the addition of a new little saint doll if I remember in time to paint them (or if I stay up until 2am the night before, not like I did that last year or anything.... ;) ).

    1. I wish my kids were more into the peg dolls to make it worth doing that! But I know I'd be doing it more for myself than them, haha! I love that idea, though!

  3. Love the dollar coin idea! I did new saint dolls a couple of years, yes to books!, candy canes, and chocolate coins but that gold coin sounds so wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Isn't it a great idea? I'm so glad Molly thought of it last year!

  4. These are such splendid ideas! I like all of them a lot, though my only child so far is 5 1/2 months and can't appreciate that kind of stuff yet ;) My husband and I always put out our shoes, and this year I'm planning to make some Greek Garbanzo Bean Soup, since it sounds like a very cozy dish and due to the ethnic connection. I'm pretty excited!

    1. What a great idea! You know, we've never really done it for my husband or me but maybe we should!